Death From Above

Written by Luke Greensmith Originally published April 18, 2021 It’s no secret here on LukeLore that we face the cold hard truth that nature is out to kill us, and definitely will if we let it. With that, we turn to the skies, bringing you fearsome flying folklore threatening to strike your friends and family from above! REMAIN INDOORS. Nature is outside waiting for us… Is It A Bird? Oh Yeah, That’s a Big Bird… I figure I have a mostly North American audience at this point, so I thought I would begin close to your home with the Native American Thunderbird. Now, to an extent the Thunderbird has morphed into some sort of cryptid for the modern times, yet this is no simple monster bird, all tribes with Thunderbird traditions seem to acknowledge an aspect of divinity. The Thunderbird is the archetypal god of thunder that happens to be a giant bird. They can whip their wings to create a crack of thunder, and can call down lightning. In some stories straight up shooting lightning from their eyes, just in case you wanted to try and call coincidence over divinity.

Stories of the Thunderbird seem to roughly align with tribes we’ve talked about before who also share Wendigo folklore. The Alonguin of the North East along with Algonquian speaking people such as the Ojibwe, down to the Iroquois peoples surrounding the Great Lakes. Plus a few more besides including the Menominee, Ho-Chunk, and Siouan. As a divine spirit of the skies, the Thunderbird sure roamed quite far across the North of America.

Incredibly important in native traditions as an important vision speaking to greatness in war, and for their figure as a divine figure fighting back the spirits of the underworld so the earth below their domain remains safe for the tribespeople, it feels incredibly uncomfortable that the Thunderbird is kind of accepted as some sort of big bird out there to be discovered by cryptid hunters that the natives must have just mistook for being more significant than it is. Keep an eye out for stories of only the smoking boots of a cryptid hunter being found of them, that should help with the divinity question of a Thunderbird. Slavic Nightmare Fuel for Pregnant Women Ah, the Poroniec… This is not a nice one. That should be obvious from it being Slavic folklore, Slavic folklore does NOT mess around. This is a traditional, yet strange by contemporary standards, version of a vampire that comes out of Poland. Which fits! Poland weirdly seems to be the birthplace of vampires as we know them.

But the Poroniec is very different. Any time during pregnancy up until 6 weeks after a baby is born, a traditional benchmark of personhood for the area, should tragedy befall the pregnancy or newborn then the remains must be carefully disposed of properly. If not, then something dark and spiteful could be formed from those remains. It’s really not a pleasant one.

Should a Poroniec form, you know have a disturbing winged creature that lurks in the trees waiting for pregnant women and the newborn to feed upon. These creatures are made powerful as a dark inversion of all the potential life not now lived, and I don’t know about you but that sounds worringly strong.

Sadly there’s not that much more information readily available about the Poroniec. As with a lot of traditional Euro-Slavic folklore it eventually got astroturfed by Christianity and this went from a tale of taking care of pregnant women and newborns, with special care to be given to those sadly lost, it just ended up being a “get baptized or else” story. The concept is getting a dark fantasy revival thanks to the Poroniec being one of many Slavic folk tales being adapted by the Witcher franchise for modern day stories, games, and now television. Very Big Birds Over Here Too! This was a big one I missed out on my Monsters of Myth LukeLore, that being the Roc. R O C, not beloved actor Dwayne Johnson, an immense bird of mythology said to be able to carry away an elephant. The Roc, or Ruhk, was pretty simple really. It was an incredibly sized bird of prey that was a legend of the Middle East, its tale spreading globally with the popularity of The Thousand and One Nights where they are included as a part of the tales.

The Roc only has a very small mention in the Tales themselves, Abdurrehman the Moor’s Tale of the Roc egg only being a couple of paragraphs, although it obviously made an impact. Merchants travelling the China seas come across an island and decide to land to look for fresh supplies. Upon exploring the island they find a giant egg, which they attach with axes and clubs. Eventually they pull out the gestating Roc chick, itself being massive. A feather from the unborn Roc is torn from the body, and then as much meat as they can carry is carved off.

As they are leaving the island? Momma Roc returns. While they escaped through the night Momma came looking in the new dawn, so massive they seemed like a giant cloud heading right for them

Angry momma turns out to be bigger than the ship, and had picked up their phonetic namesake in a giant chunk of maintain they try to drop on the fleeing ship. The merchant sailors somehow luckily slip away, the huge momma Roc may not have been able to safely go close to the water and the good winds they sailed under carried them being the stones dropped over them.

The way the Roc is treated in the short tale seems to imply it was a common part of folklore in the area. There wasn’t much time put into describing or explaining the creature, it feels a lot like a story from Europe would be if it was an anecdote along the lines of “We stole from a dragon, then ran the hell away”. The dragon doesn’t need context, we know what one is.

The quill torn from the chick they killed was Abdurrehman the Moor’s proof of the tale, said to be big enough to hold a flagon of water. But there was another part to the story… Of all the crew who ate the flesh of the chick they managed to get away with, anyone who went to sleep with grey hair woke up with the hair colour of their youth restored. This has a worrying implication for why there would be no more Roc around, there’s nothing quite like the vanity of rich men, and to have some measure of your vitality restored would have Roc eggs hunted into oblivion in a very short space of time. Who Likes Floating Glowing Guts? Okay, here’s one I haven’t encountered much but has definitely stood out quite remarkably whenever I have stumbled across it! The Krasue. (pronounced [krā.sɯ̌ː])

A type of spirit found in South East Asia, it starts as the head of a beautiful young woman.

Nice so far! Sometimes has fangs, sometimes sharp teeth, still not too bad. Then there’s what’s going on below the neck.

The Krasue ends at the neck. Below that is some dangling organs and intestines. It just kind of floats along like a weird glowing jellyfish made out of gore.

Can you imagine walking along a fence, a shy looking beautiful woman walking just the other side taking on a strange glow in the moonlight, just bobbing along with you until the fence runs out and all that’s there beneath the floating head is a heart and some dangling glowing guts, before the pretty head turns towards you revealing their fangs?

I’M VERY SAD TO SAY THAT I FOR ONE CAN IMAGINE THIS!

There is a lot of regional variations of this particular spirit, other names it has includes Ahp, Palisik, Penanggal, Kuyang, Leak, Poppo, Paeakang, and Selaq Metem. Sometimes witchcraft or dark pacts are involved, sometimes tragedies, other times punishments for moral failings. Modern movie depictions have muddied the water even further, adding various embellishments to tell a feature length story.

There are some core aspects to worry about, plus some unnerving details. Their exposed intestines and directional tract hint to their gluttonous nature. While not in all regions there are stories of them seeking out fresh blood, but for the most part they seem attracted to disgusting things. Rotting meat, festering garbage, feces, especially anything riddled with maggots. After enjoying their feast of filth they then like to wipe their mouths… Which has led to a tradition of not leaving washing hanging overnight as you run the risk of finding bloody filth smeared all over your formerly clean laundry by a gleeful Krasue fresh from a waste ditch.

Small yet simple moral of the story here? Keep everything clean and tidy. You may attract pests, and some pests may be supernatural and extra disturbing… More Mythological Menaces I seem to have caught a monsters of myth bug after dedicating a whole episode to them, so let’s get additionally Harryhausen classic and look at the Harpies of Ancient Greece. Harpies have something of a bad rap now in the modern world, their name being an insult for a mean spirited woman and often used as a synonym for ugly, but as ever the full story is a lot broader than the insults we now yell at each other.

They are another chimeric creature of myth, being composed in part of the aspects of a woman and a great bird. Not Roc sized great, but in proportion with what is usually the torso and head of a woman for what is still some substantial sized talons. Early depictions of them on pottery tend to show a beautiful woman, but they ended up described like vultures in a later epic poetry and that seems to have warped their appearance into being more hag-like. They were seen as wind spirits, their name vaguely analogous to being “Swift Robbers”. Should someone suddenly vanish one day, a common phrase would be that they were taken by the Harpies. At their fairest and best, their tales are wary of the Harpies carrying victims away, that they got described more and more foul and vile over time really hammers home this is a suitable entry to the “Death From Above” episode. They are sometimes referred to as Hounds of Zeus, which fits in with them being spirits of the air, and their most famous tale making use of them got an awe inspiring rendition in the classic Jason and the Argonauts movie. The King of Thrase was gifted the talent of prophesy by Zeus, but they managed to enrage Zeus by using this gift to meddle with the games of the gods. The Harpies were then set upon King Phineus, carrying him away to an island to be tormented for turning his gift back against Zeus. Each day a grand banquet would appear, and the harpies would then harass King Phineus away from that food eating what they wanted before fouling all over the rest leaving him to get by with what unspoiled scraps he could. Zeus did not mess around once he caught a grudge… The Argonauts on their journey rescued the King of Thrace from his fate to get guidance on the best route to take. King Phineus ending up a playing piece in this particular game of the gods, and getting his freedom as a part of playing in it to the satisfaction of Zeus and the other gods who would wager on the game that could then keep Zeus to the terms of the escape. Something about harpies definitely resonated far beyond the borders of Ancient Greece. They made if through the Medieval times as a relatively common depiction in tapestries through to modern use of their name as an insult, despite how relatively simple they are compared to a lot of monsters of myth. The simplicity may be the appeal I guess, they got an iconic story to rest their appeal upon and a lot of wider spread smaller depictions, all the way up to being pretty iconic themselves. Quite a lot of people would know what a Harpy was if you asked them. That’s all for this episode. Wanda has already covered the rather disturbing Poroniec on her Dark Art series, and there’s always more every Friday so we could be seeing others from here soon.

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